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Prologue The Lincoln Douglas debates in the fall of 1858 were termed by an East news reporter as a “Prairie Fire “ spreading across the country. While Lincoln lost the 1858 Senatorial Election to Douglas by a vote of the Illinois legislature, the roots were planted from these debates for the 1860 presidential election between these two same flatlanders. In all debate classes, presidential debates, and every substantial debate of merit, the Lincoln - Douglas debates are referenced as the “ gold standard “ of debating - both for the very importance of the debates at that time to the United States, and the oratorical skills possessed by both legislators. This era was a most exciting time politically in the United States, as the debate over slavery, territorial law, Missouri compromise nullification by the 1854 Nebraska act, and Chief Justice Toney’s most famous Dred Scott decision in 1856 placed the United States in turmoil as a nation. Follow along the historically based two person script dialogue between Mary and Abraham Lincoln with background music and depictions of the seven debates from Ottawa to Alton. The debates were held in fairgrounds, open fields, and the downtowns of seven agreed upon Illinois communities - with Lincoln and Douglas usually entering with large entourages of sophisticated supporters carried by white horses and carriages that would befit European kings. As many as 20,000 people attended some of the debates. Interestingly, in an effort to capture every word spoken by the debaters the Illinois newspaper reporters developed an abbreviated cursive script that came to be known as “shorthand” which remains in use, though waning, to this day. The political climate of the United States truly has never seen a “ Prairie Fire “ of the magnitude of the Lincoln - Douglas debates before or since the Illinois senatorial election of 1858.

CHAPTER I - BUGGY RIDE FROM SPRINGFIELD TO OTTAWA - SEPTEMBER 21, 1858 ABRAHAM

I CANNOT FINALLY BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING - PUBLIC PRESSURE FINALLY FORCED STEPHEN DOUGLAS, THE JUDGE, TO ACCEPT DEBATING ME.

MARY

I CANNOT BELIEVE IT EITHER- ALL THE TROUBLE WE’VE HAD ARRANGING THIS WITH DOUGLAS. AND I DON’T LIKE YOU CALLING HIM JUDGE. WHERE DID THAT COME FROM ?

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ABRAHAM

WELL DOUGLAS WAS TRULY AN ILLINOIS JUDGE FROM 1840 TO 1850 FOR THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE 10TH DISTRICT. HE IS A REAL JUDGE.

MARY

BUT HE IS FOR OUR PURPOSES AN ILLINOIS INCUMBENT DEMOCRATIC SENATOR. HE IS THE COMPETITION - NOT A FRIENDLY JUDGE.

ABRAHAM

OK - I’M JUST HAPPY DOUGLAS HAS ACCEPTED THE TERMS FOR SEVEN DEBATES. I WON’T HAVE TO STUMP HIM AFTER HE’S SPOKEN IN CITY AFTER CITY ANY LONGER.

MARY

BUT YOU ASKED FOR MANY MORE DEBATES - IN FACT YOU SAID YOU WOULD DEBATE UNTIL THE FINAL VOTE WAS CAST IN EVERY DISTRICT IN EVERY ILLINOIS TOWN.

ABRAHAM

THAT IS TRULY THE ONLY WAY I CAN DEFEAT THE JUDGE - BY DEBATE ON THE ISSUES.

MARY

THERE YOU GO AGAIN ABRAHAM CALLING STEVEN DOUGLAS, “ THE JUDGE “ - OH I GUESS I’LL GET ACCUSTOMED TO IT SOMEHOW.

ABRAHAM

EVERYONE CALLS HIM THE JUDGE - HE DOESN’T MIND LIKES IT BETTER THAN SENATOR DOUGLAS OR THE LITTLE MIDGET AS THEY CALL HIM IN DC.

MARY

WELL TOMORROW NIGHT WE’LL BE IN OTTAWA - A BIT OF AN UNUSUAL PLACE TO BEGIN THE DEBATES.

ABRAHAM

I FEEL IT’S TO OUR ADVANTAGE - IT IS NORTH - AND WE CAN MAKE HAY WHILE WE ARE HERE.

MARY

I SURE HOPE SO - I FEEL THAT MANY OF THE NEWSPAPERS HAVE ALREADY GIVEN THE JUDGE - OH I MEAN DOUGLAS THE 1858 SENATORIAL ELECTION.

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ABRAHAM

YES THEY THINK THAT AN OLD WHIG LIKE ME NOW TURNED REPUBLICAN CANNOT WHIP THE SHARP DOUGLAS IN DEBATES, ELECTIONS, OR ANYTHING ELSE FOR THAT MATTER. SOME SAY THE ELECTION IS JUST A FORMALITY BY THE LEGISLATORS. DEMOCRATIC LEGISLATORS ARE EXPECTED TO DOMINATE IN SPRINGFIELD.

MARY

WELL I WISH THE VOTE WAS POPULAR - NOT BY THE THOSE STATE LEGISLATORS.

ABRAHAM

THAT WILL EVENTUALLY CHANGE - PROBABLY IN OUR LIFETIME - WITH EVERYONE’S VOTE COUNTING FOR SENATOR.

MARY

WELL THE LEGISLATORS ARE WAY IN FAVOR OF STEPHEN DOUGLAS ADMITTEDLY BY THEM AND THE NEWS REPORTERS.

ABRAHAM

YES - IT WILL DEFINITELY BE AN UPHILL BATTLE ALL THE WAY. BUT WHO KNOWS - PEOPLE WILL GET TO KNOW ME AND WHAT I STAND FOR, THE ISSUE OF SLAVERY WILL COME TO THE FOREFRONT, AND THOUGH I MAY NOT WIN THE ELECTION, THERE WILL BE MANY ISSUES DECIDED BY THE DEBATES.

MARY

WILL YOU ELECT TO FULLY INFORM THE VOTERS OF YOUR OPINIONS ON SLAVERY ?

ABRAHAM

WELL I STRONGLY FEEL THAT THE UNITED STATES IS READY FOR ABOLITION OF THIS INSTITUTION. THERE IS A 50/50 SPLIT AMONGST THE STATES AND CONGRESS REGARDING SLAVERY.

MARY

SLAVERY WILL BE THE DEFINING MOMENT AND DIVISIVE SUBJECT OF THE COUNTRY AND THE LINCOLN DOUGLAS DEBATES.

ABRAHAM

NO DOUBT - WE WILL BE EXPOSED FULLY FOR OUR VIEWS. UNFORTUNATELY, THOUGH ILLINOIS IS A FREE STATE THE PAST TEN YEARS AND IS IN LINE WITH THE MISSOURI COM-

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PROMISE OF 1820 - THERE ARE STILL SLAVES AND SOUTHERN SENTIMENT - ESPECIALLY IN SOUTHERN ILLINOIS OR SHALL I SAY EGYPT.

MARY

HERE YOU GO AGAIN - TALKING ABOUT EGYPT AND HOW THOSE FOLKS DOWN THERE IN SOUTHERN ILLINOIS VOTE DIFFERENTLY AND DETERMINE ELECTIONS.

ABRAHAM

AS IT STANDS, I DON’T STAND A CHANCE IN ANY SOUTHERN ILLINOIS COUNTY. MY FIRST TRIP TO THE US HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES BACK IN 1847....WELL BECAUSE I WAS THE LONE WHIG FROM ILLINOIS, I REALLY STOOD OUT ON ALL ISSUES. SHOULD NEVER HAVE MADE THAT SIDE DEAL TO ONLY SERVE ONE TERM.

MARY

BUT YOU GARNERED ENOUGH SUPPORT THAT SOME OF THE FLATLANDERS FROM OTHER PARTIES VOTED FOR A WHIG.... BECAUSE YOU WERE DIFFERENT, STOOD TALL ON YOUR VIEWS, AND..........

ABRAHAM

MAYBE THE DEMOCRATIC COMPETITION WASN’T SO GREAT.

MARY

NO - THEY VOTED FOR YOU ABRAHAM BECAUSE OF YOUR VIEWS. THOUGH UNPOPULAR, THEY LIKED YOUR STRONG STAND ON ISSUES.

ABRAHAM

WELL - WE’LL SEE IF I CAN CONVINCE SOME FOLKS - EVEN THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE - THAT MY VIEWS ARE MORE MODERN, WILL WORK FOR ILLINOIS AND THE UNITED STATES. SADLY I’M READY TO DISCUSS STRONG SUPPORT FOR INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT ALL THROUGH THE COUNTRY, LINKING RAILROADS AND OTHER COMMERCIAL ENTERPRISES TO SPUR EXPANSION AND THE ECONOMIC HEALTH OF OUR YOUNG COUNTRY. BUT I SEE THE JUDGE MAKING THIS A FORUM ON SLAVERY AND TERRITORIES BECAUSE HE HAS BEEN THE HEAD OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON UNITED STATES TERRITORIES.

MARY

WELL PREVIOUS WHIG VIEWS HAVE COME UNDER MUCH SCRUTINY - BIG BANKS, TARIFFS, AND FITTING THE SLAVERY QUESTION INTO WHAT APPEALS TO THE CROWD AT THE TIME. THE WHIGS HAVE BEEN FOREVER SPLIT OVER SLAVERY.

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ABRAHAM

BUT MARY - YOU KEEP FORGETTING I’M NOW A REPUBLICAN - NOMINATED IN SPRINGFIELD BY THE REPUBLICAN CAUCUS. I’M NO LONGER A WHIG. IN FACT THE WHIG PARTY IS ESSENTIALLY DOOMED.

MARY

WELL NOW THAT YOU’RE A REPUBLICAN MANY OF YOUR WHIG VALUES WILL REMAIN WITH YOU FOREVER.

ABRAHAM

NO DOUBT. I GUESS I’LL ALWAYS IN MANY WAYS BE A WHIG. THE WHIGS’ BIGGEST FAILURE WAS NOT HAVING HENRY CLAY FROM KENTUCKY BE OUR PRESIDENT - MAYBE THE VERY BEST STATESMAN OF OUR TIME. I’M STILL TAKING GRIEF FOR SUPPORTING TAYLOR INSTEAD OF CLAY IN ‘48 FOR PRESIDENT; AND THE FALLOUT POLITICALLY WILL BE SEVERE IF I EVER GET INTO NATIONAL POLITICS.

MARY

IT WAS GOOD JUST TO GET TO KNOW HIM, AND WORK WITH HIM IN WASHINGTON. YOU DID WHAT WAS RIGHT AT THE TIME AND TAYLOR WAS ELECTED - WHO KNOWS - CLAY MAY HAVE BEEN DEFEATED.

ABRAHAM

I AGREE - CLAY WAS REALLY THE VERY BEST; AND NATHANIEL WEBSTER WAS RIGHT BEHIND HIM - WOULD HAVE BEEN A GREAT PRESIDENT.

MARY

WELL - THE REPUBLICAN PARTY IS NEW FOR ME ALSO - MY PARENTS ROOTS GO BACK TO KENTUCKY WHIGS, AND THIS WILL BE A DIFFICULT BREAK FOR ALL OF US.

ABRAHAM

ACTUALLY I’M EXCITED TO BE REPRESENTING THE REPUBLICAN PARTY - ESPECIALLY AGAINST DOUGLAS - THE LITTLE GIANT AS THE PRESS HAS TERMED HIM.

MARY

YOU AND DOUGLAS HAVE BEEN COMPETING AGAINST ONE ANOTHER FOR YEARS INDIRECTLY.

ABRAHAM

AND NOW IT IS LITERALLY FACE TO FACE, ONE ON ONE. MAY THE BEST MAN WIN THE DEBATES AND THE ELECTION.

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MARY

WELL THE TRIBUNE SAYS THAT EVEN IF LINCOLN WINS THE DEBATES, HE WILL NOT WIN THE ELECTION. THE STATE LEGISLATURE WHO VOTES HAS ALREADY BEEN POLLED, AND DOUGLAS HAS BEEN DECLARED THE WINNER.

ABRAHAM

THE 1858 SENATE ELECTION IS NOT OVER UNTIL THE VOTES ARE IN - WHICH MAY SWAY SOME LEGISLATORS IN SPRINGFIELD. IT IS THAT SIMPLE. IF FOLKS MAKE A DECISION BEFORE HEARING THE JUDGE AND MYSELF SPEAK - WELL THAT MAKES THE DEBATES MEANINGLESS. I HAVE MORE FAITH IN ILLINOIS VOTERS THAN THE CHICAGO TIMES.

MARY

I AGREE - WE WILL FIGHT ALL THE WAY TO THE POLLING BOOTHS. THE DEBATES WILL END IN ALTON BUT WE WILL NOT BE DENIED OUR RIGHTS TO INFLUENCE VOTERS ON THE MOST MEANINGFUL ISSUES THE UNITED STATES HAS EVER ENCOUNTERED.

ABRAHAM

I’VE NEVER SEEN YOU SO ENGROSSED IN THE DEBATES - NOW YOU ARE BEGINNING TO SOUND LIKE A FIGHTING SENATOR’S WIFE.

MARY

WELL I HAVE A LOT AT STAKE ALSO - MY FATHER IS CONSIDERING RUNNING FOR CONGRESS IN KENTUCKY. I HAVE TO LIVE IN SPRINGFIELD AND OUR SOCIAL STATUS WILL BE AFFECTED BY THE OUTCOME OF THIS ELECTION.

ABRAHAM

WELL INNUMERABLE TIMES IN MY LAW AND POLITICAL CAREER I’VE BEEN SHUNNED BY CLIENTS, VOTERS, AND PEERS. THANK GOD WE’VE FORMED THE NEW REPUBLICAN PARTY.

MARY

THE NEW REPUBLICAN PARTY IS JUST A FRONT FOR ABOLITIONISTS ACCORDING TO MANY. THAT MAY NOT WORK IN ILLINOIS - AS THE SOUTHERN PART OF THE STATE - WHICH YOU CALL EGYPT - IS SO PROSLAVERY.

ABRAHAM

BUT THEN AGAIN ILLINOIS CAME INTO THE UNION AS A FREE STATE TEN YEARS AGO - WE ARE ABOVE THE MISSOURI COMPROMISE LINE - EVEN THOUGH TECHNICALLY THAT HAS BEEN REPEALED BY THE 1850 COMPROMISE, THE KANSAS NEBRASKA ACT OF 1854, AND DRED SCOTT’S RULING.

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MARY

WELL ANYWAY I SEE THIS WHOLE DEBATE OVER SLAVERY THE NATIONAL ISSUE.

ABRAHAM

BUT IF WE WIN, OUR POLICIES WHICH WE STRONGLY BELIEVE IN WILL COME INTO EFFECT THROUGH NATIONAL LEGISLATION. MY ELECTION AS THE REPUBLICAN AND NOT WHIG REPRESENTATIVE FOR U.S. SENATOR SENDS A STRONG MESSAGE TO WASHINGTON AND THE SOUTH.

MARY

BUT STEPHEN DOUGLAS - THOUGH A LITTLE MIDGET IS A VERY STRONG PERSONALITY WITH MUCH SUPPORT THROUGHOUT THE STATE AND NATIONALLY. YOU COULD NOT HAVE PICKED A TOUGHER OPPONENT.

ABRAHAM

YES I KNOW THE JUDGE IS A GREAT DEBATER - THE VERY BEST - BUT HIS PRINCIPLES ARE NOT AS GOOD AS THE REPUBLICAN MESSAGE. THE TIME IS RIPE FOR NEW IDEAS TO COME TO WASHINGTON DC. WE WILL BE VINDICATED.

MARY

BUT AGAIN ABRAHAM - THE NEWSPAPERS SAY WHY DEBATE ? THE RACE IS ALREADY DECIDED.

ABRAHAM

I STRONGLY DISAGREE AND THAT IS WHY THERE IS A VOTE IN THE ILLINOIS STATE LEGISLATURE TO DECIDE WHO WILL BE THE NEXT SENATOR. THE PEOPLE WILL VOTE ON STATE LEGISLATORS WHO IN TURN WILL VOTE FOR UNITED STATES SENATOR. YOU NEVER KNOW BECAUSE MOST OF THE OLD WHIG PARTY WILL VOTE FOR LINCOLN, INDEPENDENTS AND KNOW NOTHINGS WILL ALSO VOTE FOR ME AS I’VE BEEN TOLD.

MARY

BUT DOUGLAS’S DEMOCRATS STILL OUTNUMBER ALL THE OTHER CANDIDATES.

ABRAHAM

BUT NORTHERN ILLINOIS DEMOCRATS MAY INDEED VOTE FOR ME AND OUR REPUBLICAN PARTY.

MARY

I CERTAINLY HOPE SO, AS WE NEED AS MANY VOTES AS WE CAN SURELY MUSTER.

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ABRAHAM

ILLINOIS VOTERS WILL GET A FIRST RATE VIEW OF BOTH THE JUDGE AND ME IN THE DEBATES.

MARY

SO WHERE WILL THESE DEBATES OCCUR IN THE SEVEN CITIES ?

ABRAHAM

IN FAIRGROUNDS, TOWN SQUARES, PARKS, AND DOWNTOWN LOCATIONS. ANYWHERE THE MOST PEOPLE CAN SEE. THERE WILL BE FOLKS ON TOP OF TREES, IN FRONT AND BEHIND US. WE PREDICT THAT AS MANY AS 20,000 COULD SHOW FOR A SINGLE DEBATE. WE JUST DON’T KNOW. THE MORE THE BETTER.

MARY

I FULLY AGREE. DO YOU HAVE YOUR POSITIONS DOWN FIRMLY ON EVERY QUESTION THE JUDGE WILL ASK YOU ?

ABRAHAM

WELL WE’VE ANTICIPATED EVERYTHING FROM THE MEXICAN WAR TO THE HOUSE DIVIDED SPEECH IN THE ILLINOIS LEGISLATURE.

MARY

WELL THAT SPEECH HAS BEEN INTERPRETED BY MANY AS YOUR FAILURE.

ABRAHAM

I DON’T SEE IT THAT WAY. NOT AT ALL. IN FACT I SEE IT AS THE TRUTH OF OUR COUNTRY. A HOUSE DIVIDED CANNOT STAND IN MY CONTEXT MEANS THAT THE UNITED STATES WILL BECOME EITHER ALL BONDAGE OR NOT. WE CAN NO LONGER EXIST WITH VARYING STATE SLAVERY LAWS AND VARIABLE INTERPRETATIONS OF THE FEDERAL LAW.

MARY

SO YOU STILL FEEL SLAVERY WILL EITHER FLOURISH OR DIE. THERE WILL NOT BE ROOM FOR BOTH ?

ABRAHAM

WELL YES I ACKNOWLEDGE IT WAS SUCH A DIFFICULT PROBLEM WHEN OUR COUNTRY WAS FORMED - BUT THERE WAS SO MUCH INVOLVING JUST PLAIN SURVIVAL THAT THE FOUNDING FATHERS COULD NOT HAVE ERADICATED THE INSTITUTION OF SLAVERY AT THE BIRTH OF OUR NATION - IT WOULD HAVE TORN US APART.

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MARY

AND DOUGLAS SAYS THERE IS NO NEED TO CHANGE ANYTHING - THE UNITED STATES HAS HAD FREE AND SLAVE STATES FOR 75 YEARS, THE COUNTRY WAS FOUNDED ON THESE PRINCIPLES, AND WE’VE THRIVED DESPITE SLAVERY.

ABRAHAM

YES I REALIZE THE JUDGE’S VIEW - BUT IT IS AN INSTITUTION THAT WE CAN LIVE WITHOUT. MANKIND HAS BECOME MUCH MORE SENSITIVE TO THE PLIGHT OF THE NEGRO.

MARY

BUT THE SOUTH - INCLUDING WHERE YOU AND I BOTH HAD OUR KENTUCKY ROOTS HAS SLAVERY DEEPLY INGRAINED. IT IS A PART OF SOCIETY, THE ECONOMIC LIFE OF THE SOUTH, AND REMOVING IT WOULD RAVAGE THE ENTIRE UNITED STATES.

ABRAHAM

I AGREE THAT A DISRUPTION OF ECONOMIES WOULD OCCUR, BUT FOR THE ABSOLUTE BETTERMENT OF SOCIETY. A PERIOD OF RECONSTRUCTION WOULD BE NECESSARY.

MARY

AND SENDING AFRICAN AMERICANS BACK TO LIBERIA OR SOME OTHER AFRICAN COUNTRY.

ABRAHAM

YES BOTH CLAY AND WEBSTER ARE PROPONENTS OF THIS RECOLONIZATION PLAN - I AM ALSO AN ADVOCATE OF THIS PLAN.

MARY

BUT HOW PRACTICAL WOULD THIS BE WITH ALREADY FREE BLACKS, THE COSTS OF SHIPPING ENTIRE FAMILIES BACK TO AFRICA, AND WHAT OF THE NEGROES THAT STAYED ? WELL........

ABRAHAM MARY

THAT IS WHAT I MEAN. ARE YOU REALLY READY FOR THESE DEBATES ? STEPHEN DOUGLAS IS A SNEAKY INTELLIGENT MAN WHO MAY EMBARRASS YOU.

ABRAHAM

I DON’T HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS YET. NO ONE DOES.

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MARY

WELL THE AMERICAN PUBLIC WILL EXPECT YOU TO HAVE EXACT SOLUTIONS TO TOUGH PROBLEMS FOR THEM TO HAVE THE CONFIDENCE IN YOU TO OBTAIN THEIR VOTE.

ABRAHAM

WELL I HAVE NOT GIVEN MUCH THOUGHT TO MANUMITTED AFRICANS. TANEY’S DRED SCOOT DECISION A COUPLE YEARS AGO SENT OUR NATION INTO TURMOIL.

MARY

YES DOUGLAS WILL ATTEMPT TO ANNIHILATE YOU ON THIS ISSUE - CLAIMING THAT YOU ARE GOING AGAINST THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT WHICH HAS ALREADY DECIDED THAT SLAVES ARE PROPERTY, NOT CITIZENS, AND THAT YOU AND THE REPUBLICANS ARE ANTI AMERICAN - DEFYING THE LAW DECLARING THAT SLAVES ARE INDEED PROPERTY AND NOT CITIZENS.

ABRAHAM

AND DOUGLAS HAS BEEN KNOWN TO HAVE SAID THIS TANEY DECISION CAN ONLY BE APPEALED IN HEAVEN.

MARY

AND EIGHT OF THE NINE JUSTICES WROTE SOLID SOMEWHAT DISSENTING OPINIONS ON THE CASE.

ABRAHAM

MANY FEEL THERE WAS A CONSPIRACY BETWEEN TANEY, DOUGLAS, AND PRESIDENT PIERCE - AND I’VE BEEN ACCUSED OF CONCLUDING THERE WAS A CONSPIRACY WITHIN THE LEGISLATIVE, JUDICIAL, AND EXECUTIVE BRANCHES OF GOVERNMENT FROM THE 1850 COMPROMISE, WILMOT PROVISO WHICH DIDN’T PASS, KANSAS NEBRASKA ACT, AND THE DRED SCOTT DECISION.

MARY

SO AGAIN THE JUDGE HAS YOU OVER A BARREL ON THESE ISSUES. YOU NEED TO REALLY THINK YOUR ANSWERS THROUGH CLEARLY - NO MATTER WHAT PART OF THE STATE WE ARE IN.

ABRAHAM

YES I KNOW - THESE REPORTERS FROM CHICAGO ARE USING WHAT THEY CALL SHORTHAND TO REPORT THE DEBATES BACK TO THE NEWSPAPERS - WORD FOR WORD.

MARY

WELL THAT IS INTERESTING - THE FACT THESE REPORTERS CAN KEEP UP WITH BOTH OF YOU IS ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. 11


ABRAHAM

I WILL GIVE SOME OF THESE ISSUES FURTHER THOUGHT.

MARY

WELL WE HAD BETTER PLAN AHEAD CONSIDERABLY SO AS TO NOT BE EMBARRASSED. AS YOU ARE AWARE SLAVERY WILL BE THE MAIN DEBATING ISSUE - AND SENTIMENT, THE LAW, DOUGLAS’S POPULARITY, AND EGYPT AND DOUGLAS’S FRIENDS AND CONNECTIONS IN CHICAGO ARE ALL AGAINST YOU.

ABRAHAM

WELL I HAVE BEAT DOUGLAS ALREADY IN A BIG MATCH. WHAT IS THAT MAY I ASK ? YOUR HAND.

MARY

ABRAHAM MARY

THANK GOD. I FINALLY SEE THE GLIMMERING LIGHTS OF OTTAWA.

End-Chapter I - PRAIRIE FIRE

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Prairie Fire, Chapter I